Easter message from Bishop Christopher Coyne
“So Peter and the other disciple [John] went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in…” (John 20:3-5).
Why did John, the beloved disciple, pause outside the tomb? Why did he wait for Peter to catch up to him and then allow Peter to go in first? After all, John is the disciple who laid his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper, who stood steadfast at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother and the other women. Was it simply out of deference to Peter as the leader of the apostles, the one Jesus called “the rock on whom I will build my Church?” Or was it something else?
Perhaps John was afraid of what he might find. If he went in and Jesus’ body was there after all, the finality of it all, the ultimate end to any hope, the truth that Jesus’ promise to “rise in three days” was only empty words — not an empty tomb — would perhaps have been too overwhelming. Better to not know. Better to not know.
Or what if he went in, and Jesus’ body was not there, if the burial cloths were strewn all around and any evidence of a corpse was gone? If there were no clumsy footprints or clues that someone else like the Romans or the temple authorities had stolen the body, then what now, what now? Where is He? What does this mean? Nothing’s the same any longer! Is it true? Did He really rise like He said He would? Can I really hope that the one I loved, the one I gave my life to follow and then watched die on the Cross is alive as He said He would be? And what does all this mean for me? What do I do now? Better to not know. Better to not know.
Finally, the brash and bold Peter arrives, and he goes into the tomb. The one who left his boat and everything else behind goes in and sees the burial cloths rolled up in a separate place, the one who brazenly swore that he would never betray Jesus and then did so three times. He goes in and John follows. Perhaps Peter has more to gain. Perhaps he needs to know that his thrice-voiced betrayal is not the last of his life’s encounters with the person of Jesus. Perhaps he needs the promise of the resurrection to be true more than John does. He needs to know.
You and I know Jesus did rise from the dead. We may not have seen Him, glorified and resurrected as did the early Church, but we are members of that same Church of which Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” And when we hear the Easter stories proclaimed anew each year — especially this year when so much in our lives is so frightening and uncertain — we say, “Better to know … what a blessing to know.”